Policy and Governance

Working to inform policies and innovative governance that enable farms, communities, and grasslands to adapt and thrive.

The policy playing field

Our work is designed to help understand the current status and historical trends of policies that either support or constrain grass-based agriculture. We think of policy broadly, from taxes and cost-share to grass-fed labels and lending guidelines. Together, we are working to identify the governing organizations, policy tools, policy documents, staff capacity, and budget allocations supporting grazing and grasslands.

Many groups have a hand in shaping the governance of grass-based agriculture. Governments play important roles, including county conservationists, state Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection and Department of Natural Resources, and federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. Private sector companies make policies and operate within policy sideboards, including farms, processors, input suppliers, and financial services. Non-governmental organizations have critical functions in creating and implementing policy. This includes organizations that create grass-based standards, conduct research, advocate for policy change or maintenance, conduct outreach to farmers and support farmer networks.

The Grassland 2.0 team is dedicated to sharing lessons about what has and has not worked in prior efforts to transition toward grass-based agriculture and grassland or prairie. We also aim to provide information and inspiration to help build a policy learning network around grass-based agriculture.

As a part of this work, we are developing state-level policy profiles that compile information on the organizations, policies, and funding supporting managed grazing in the state.

We are also recommending policy changes at the federal level to restore grasslands and other forms of perennial agriculture to the agricultural system. For example, we recently submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on their climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy.

Perspectives on policy and governance

People who interact directly with grass-based agriculture have important perspectives on opportunities and barriers facing transitions to grazing. Through interviews and workshops we are compiling the perspectives of key stakeholders including farmers, processors, lenders, educators, university and county extension, state and federal agencies, and rural community leaders. We intend to build a mental map of barriers and opportunities for grazing and to identify potential leverage points for behavior, policy and system change. We are also sharing diverse stories from farmers and community stakeholders who will help us reimagine the possibilities for supporting regenerative and equitable agriculture, communities, and ecosystems. 

Learning from the Dairy Farmer Survey

Grassland 2.0, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, conducted a survey of dairy farmers to learn about their policy preferences. Here we share results about 1.) water quality, soil, and natural resource conservation, and 2.) working conditions and labor. Understanding farmer perspectives is critical for well-designed policy.

Land tenure 

We are compiling a report on land tenure challenges with particular focus on how these challenges affect black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. This will include an analysis of the history of how land has been and continues to be used as a tool for exclusion and the resulting consequences for agriculture, environment, and social well-being. We are also reviewing strategies used or suggested to address land tenure challenges for BIPOC farmers, beginning farmers, women, and veterans.